Tools for That Pesky “R”: Some Old, Some New

Ah, that pesky vocalic /r/!  Why is it so difficult for some kids to produce?

image_20813I can’t honestly say that I learned a lot of good artic therapy techniques in college coursework.  However, I was fortunate to do my student teaching with a seasoned SLP who had good success with “old school” methods:  lots of drill with a flashlight and a mirror.  Auditory and visual models, hand gestures, coarticulation, and word cards and lists rounded out her bag of tricks.  Nothing cute or fancy;  this was long before TeachersPayTeachers.  But “old school” worked:  her students mastered /r/, and that is the definition of evidenced-based practice.

Fast-forward 20 years, and you’ll find that I still employ a lot of “old school” methods in my practice because they work.  Of course, I’ve added some quick and easy games to keep the students engaged and motivated;  you can read about this in my post, “Drill, Baby, Drill.”  For some tactile support, I occasionally need to resort to the “speech gizmo,” known to the rest of the world as a dental flosser.  And my best “new school” tool:  the VowelViz app from CompleteSpeech.  I can tell a student until I’m blue in the face that his tongue is too low, but when he sees the spaceship drop like a rock on the iPad screen, he gets it.  He may not be able to immediately lift his tongue into a good /r/ position (oh, if only!), but he starts to be aware that he needs to do something different with his tongue to get that spaceship up to Saturn with a good /er/, and those adjustments will be reflected on the screen, providing immediate visual feedback. My sessions often involve moving back and forth between the mirror and flashlight and the VowelViz app.  See it, feel it, listen to it, watch the effect on the screen.

The lesson here is simple. While we should always be open to new techniques, we shouldn’t forget those old tried-and-true methods.  A blend of both works for me!

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2 thoughts on “Tools for That Pesky “R”: Some Old, Some New

  1. Pingback: “No Useful Moves Detected” | Speaking of Speech Blog

  2. Pingback: Apps for Vocalic /r/ Production | Speaking of Speech Blog

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